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Just One Glitch in USC's New Digs

The Galen Center opens to rave reviews, though No. 4 women's volleyball team loses in first event.

October 13, 2006|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

The scores of workmen who had spent the last week frantically applying the finishing touches on the Galen Center were gone Thursday night, replaced by hordes of USC fans eager to open the school's long-awaited athletic facility in style.

Cheers rang out as the fourth-ranked USC women's volleyball team rattled off the first five points against No. 6 Stanford, but USC could not sustain the momentum during a 30-21, 30-26, 30-28 defeat in the building's first athletic event.

Nonetheless, the arena scored big points among the estimated gathering of 5,000 for impressive sight lines -- even from the far reaches of the upper deck -- and an intimate feel for a 10,258-seat arena.

"I think it's amazing," said Steve Krasnow, 43, of Irvine. "I've waited 35 years as a Trojan fan for this."

What's the best part?

"That it's here."

Indeed, Carol Dougherty, the USC senior associate athletic director in charge of the project, described herself as "exhilarated" in the moments before the opening serve.

"I don't have my hard hat on, I don't have my steel-toed boots," she said, alluding to a series of setbacks that had delayed the building's opening several months. "I feel great."

Dougherty said workers had conducted an afternoon walk-through of the facility and found nothing out of whack save for one faulty electrical outlet. She later discovered an empty soap dispenser in one of the women's restrooms.

Among the other imperfections were some unfinished landscaping outside the building and a few makeshift signs taped to restrooms and seating sections. One fan complained that paper towel dispensers were set too low in a men's restroom.

But the faults were offset by some fancy features. The lights were dimmed for professional-style pregame introductions, which included player profiles on the video scoreboard above center court.

"I feel comfortable here," said senior libero Debora Seilhamer, whose match-high 21 digs could not prevent the Trojans (17-1 overall, 6-1 Pacific 10 Conference) from suffering their first loss of the season. "I felt like every time we went to another Pac-10 gym it was better than ours. Now we have the best one, no doubt."

The Galen Center will also be used by the men's and women's basketball teams and the men's volleyball team.

"I like the layout," Gabe Pruitt, a junior guard for the men's basketball team, said as he walked through the main concourse. "It reminds me of a mini-Staples Center. It's more of a college atmosphere and reminds me of some of the places we've played on the road."

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